This article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in the New Indian Express on September 26, 2010.
Keep Your Eye On The Right Side And The Wrong Side Too
Driving in the Hyderabad traffic is a different cup of chai so all new comers could do well to learn a few basic things before venturing out here. To begin with, as you back out from home, watch out for ditches and trenches that some thoughtful department has dug up overnight so you can fall into it. And at the same time, please avoid running over the sweepers (and their families), as they diligently sweep the road behind your car. Now, stop hands from shaking, keep eyes on the road and proceed.
When you approach the main road, do not merely look for traffic on the right side. Instead keep an eye out for traffic on the wrong side as well i.e. use your right eye to observe the right side traffic and the wrong eye to observe the wrong side traffic. (This is a little difficult but in time you will know how to do it.) Earlier, the wrong side traffic sneaked by apologetically, but these days they race at you at high speeds in a challenging manner and glare angrily at you for hindering their progress. From motorbikes to small trucks and jet planes, anything could come up on the wrong side so keep that eye rolling.
Once on the main road, stay away from RTC buses that seem to want to get intimate with your vehicle. They have no rules so no amount of righteous honking will help. They will push you, climb over you, crush you, make a small family with your car, and you can do nothing. When these buses stop, mostly in the middle of the road, people jump in and out of its many orifices, so watch out for these jumping jacks as well. Quit staring at the buses and keep one eye rolling for breezy youngsters on bikes with new registration plates, riding three at a time, holding mobile phones to one another’s ears, and swinging wildly in a crazy zig zag path through the traffic. This is the time to pray, so they don’t choose your car to end their suicidal mission (don’t close your eyes). Oh, and that divider came up last evening, so please get your car off it right now. Can’t you keep your eyes on the road?
Watch out (with both eyes) for the private cab fleet with signs like ‘If this guy is driving rashly please contact some number.’ That is a joke, you will realize, since all those guys drive so fast that by the time you read the message, the cabs have raced off to the neighbouring state. They also do not think twice of banging into anything in their path since they are merely taking the shortest route to their destination – i.e. through you. Avert your eyes from slow moving cars with really dark glasses because they are in all likelihood being driven by a Romeo in the midst of some amorous pursuit, a mafia Don or a drug peddler – all equally dangerous to your health.
Other important features on Hyderabad roads include dump trucks with huge rocks strategically placed on the edge so they can fall over you when you creep up behind them (eyes up), seven seaters that can turn at right angles (eyes right), tourist buses driven by bleary eyed drivers who have not slept for the past 200 years and who drive at a minimum speed of 150 kmph (eyes wide open), among other things. But before that, maybe you should pop some pills before you have a stroke or your eyes pop out from their sockets.